JAILVISIT RULE STIRS FAIRNESS CONCERNS
August 23, 2007
- NATURALIZED CITIZENS MUST PROVIDE PAPERS Arizona Republic, The (Phoenix,
AZ) August 23, 2007
Author: Michael Kiefer, The Arizona Republic Estimated printed pages: 4
When is a U.S. citizen not entitled to the same rights as other U.S.
According to a Maricopa County Sheriff's Office policy, when that citizen was
not born in the United States and is trying to visit a county-jail inmate.
But some attorneys question whether that policy is legal or if it implies that
there are different levels of citizenship.
Ramon Delgadillo has worked 25 years as an interpreter for Maricopa County
Superior Court. It's a regular part of his job to enter the county jail to
interpret for defense attorneys representing Spanish-speaking defendants.
But on Aug. 15, he was turned away as a consequence of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's new
policy to keep undocumented immigrants from visiting inmates.
Delgadillo is a naturalized U.S. citizen, and when he checked a box to that
effect on a new jail visitor's application form, he was told he had to provide
detailed information about his naturalization certificate and his passport.
He didn't have that information with him.
"I had my court ID, and I gave it to them," Delgadillo said, but it didn't help.
"There is no governmental requirement to carry the information that was
requested. There is no requirement to apply for a passport as a citizen,
naturalized or not."
And over the next 24 hours, the scene was repeated several times.
In addition to Delgadillo, a foreign-born public defender and a mitigation
specialist were turned away. According to a spokesman at the Maricopa County
Public Defender's Office, other employees were told that they could get through
once but would be turned away in the future if they didn't have that
"You've got to understand that there's no constitutional right to go into a
jail," Arpaio said.
The defendants, however, do have a right to meet with their attorneys and
certain other paralegal personnel.
Within days, the Sheriff's Office determined that court employees on such
"privileged" visits could show court identification cards to get in to see
But the policy would remain in effect for any other naturalized citizens.
Native-born citizens can enter without proving citizenship; naturalized citizens
"We want to make sure the person is still naturalized. That's why it goes one
step further," Arpaio said.
But, according to immigration attorneys, citizenship is hard to revoke. And
asking more questions of naturalized citizens than native-born citizens may
violate their constitutional rights not to be singled out by unequal treatment
"If you're a citizen, you're a citizen," attorney Antonio Bustamante said.
"Do you have a piece of paper in your wallet that says you're a citizen?"
David Derickson, a former Superior Court judge who practices criminal-defense
and civil-rights law, also asked the rhetorical question:
"Now, you're going to have to carry your papers to get in to the jail? This is
the kind of societal attitude that makes you think of being in Europe in the
1930s," Derickson added.
Arpaio said his deputies have not made any arrests of undocumented immigrants
trying to visit jail inmates since the new policy went into effect in recent
weeks. But, he said, jail visits have gone down.
The new visitation form asks if the visitor is a non-citizen alien, a
native-born U.S. citizen or a naturalized U.S. citizen.
If native-born, there is no further questioning. If naturalized, however, the
applicant must provide the number of the naturalization certificate, the court
that issued it and the date, and a passport number and place and date of issue.
Delgadillo, 58, who came to the United States 35 years ago, has been a U.S.
citizen for seven years.
"When you become a citizen, they don't tell you that you're required to show a
certificate," Delgadillo said. "They don't tell you that you should know the
number. They guarantee you all the rights of a citizen. I don't have to say that
I'm a naturalized citizen when I cross the border. I only have to say that I am
a U.S. citizen. So why would I have to say that to go into the jail, where I've
been going for 25 years and I've never had any problems?"
And, according to immigration attorney Jose Bracamonte, the only difference
between a native-born and a naturalized citizen in the eyes of the law is that
the naturalized citizen can't run for president.
The only reason for which citizenship can be revoked, Bracamonte said, is if the
person lied during the application process -- which happened recently when a
naturalized citizen's former Nazi ties were revealed years after the fact.
"To ask me to go beyond simply declaring my status, that means that the people
who are naturalized cannot be trusted, whereas the people who say they were born
in the United States can. And that's not rational,"
Bracamonte said. "Either request it from every citizen, or you shouldn't request
it of any citizen. It's an impermissible distinction."
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or (602) 444-8994.
CAPTION: Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Edition: Final Chaser